YouTube and Animators 2014-08-03 13:22:40
These past few days a number of prominent animators have come out about the bleak future of animation on YouTube. Commenters keep opining, "If only there was an alternative to YouTube!" I'm here to tell you, there IS an alternative to YouTube and you're looking at it.
Newgrounds has given animators a platform since 1999 and the majority of established web animators got their start here. We had real-time publishing for five years before YouTube existed and even beat their Partner Program to the punch with our Flash Ads system.
When YouTube first launched, animators weren't particularly interested. Its growth was largely based on television and other entertainment piracy. Over the years, animators started having their work stolen and posted to YouTube, at which point they began managing their own accounts as a defensive measure. The real tipping point came when YouTube introduced Networks. To limit their liability and outsource the effort of dealing with independent artists, YouTube allowed third party companies to establish networks and receive a premium CPM, so they could incentivize artists to join under their network umbrellas.
Individual networks raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital to fuel rapid expansion. This created a lot of "bubble" money in the YouTube ecosystem; guaranteed CPMs, acquisitions of exclusive content, etc. It works out when these companies get sold for multiples of what investors put into them. Maker sold for $500-950 million based on having a bunch of contracts with popular YouTube channels.
In comparison, NG has no outside funding and CPMs have traditionally been shit, due to our lax censorship policy and a history of controversial content.
As the YouTube money grew, priorities shifted. Instead of being THE platform, Newgrounds became a springboard to move people to YouTube. Our front page blog space became filled with artists promoting their YouTube pages and a lot of the movies (still SWF format at the time) had "Watch on YouTube" buttons that were larger than the "Play" buttons. Our front page was essentially a big redirect to YouTube.
That wasn't the only thing working against NG though. Our CPMs declined as ad dollars moved into video and social advertising, not to mention the ubiquity of AdBlock. Game developers were losing confidence in Flash and jumping over to mobile and Steam. The last few years were a huge existential crisis for NG, as we shed staff and reduced other operating expenses, while also working to adapt.
We added support for animation in video format and released Swivel, the best ever SWF to video conversion tool, used by most web animators today. We knew this would speed up the migration to YouTube but we thought people would at least keep posting to NG; sadly a lot of them took the free software and ran.
I got it though; NG had failed them miserably. Web animators were growing up and they wanted to make a living; that wasn't happening with NG. I felt like this was a deserved punishment because NG hadn't lived up to its potential and I spent a few years beating myself up about it.
Now, though, our potential is growing. NG is paying its bills and payouts to content producers are rising each month. In addition to video support, we accept games made with HTML5 and Unity. We're running video pre-roll ads on all of it and the fill-rate keeps improving.
I can't promise that you will ever make a living off NG but I can promise that taking the time to involve yourself with NG will only help you. It won't take away from your YouTube views or your YouTube revenue and if anything will win you new fans and put extra money in your pocket.
There's no reason for you to give YouTube exclusive content if they aren't paying you for exclusive content. In fact, showing YouTube they AREN'T the only game in town is the one thing that will make them work harder for you.
Post your animations on YouTube but post them on NG too! Nurture fans on both platforms and the combined fanbase will translate to larger numbers on Facebook and Twitter. Tell fans about your stuff on NG! There was a time when social media didn't exist; you uploaded content to NG and depended on the NG front page to tell people. Now everyone has their own social media fans and they send them to YouTube exclusively. Mix it up a little! Make some people at YouTube jealous!
I didn't have the confidence to say this in the past because our CPMs were too low but we are getting more and more competitive and your support will speed up our progress. Our profits don't go to investors, they go towards sponsorships, contests and cool stuff like those Wacom giveaways we once had every December. We've streamlined the hell out of NG and NG doesn't make money unless the community is making money, so we don't win unless you do.
My pessimism has helped me achieve some great things in life (you keep working when you aren't satisfied) but it has also hurt me because I constantly undersell my accomplishments, NG especially. I'll say now that NG is the best thing that ever happened on the Internet and it deserves to be recognized. The NG staff shows up every day and keeps making NG better, through boom and bust for nearly 20 years, and no site is more deserving of success than Newgrounds.
So to close this out...
We hope to see your next animation!